Welcome back to the Beyond The Data series! This month, we’re highlighting Jose Ortuño, an exceptional phData Solutions Architect with three Master’s degrees and several adventurous hobbies!
Tell us your name, where you’re from, and a little about you.
Hi, I’m Jose Luis Ortuno Rodriguez. Yes, quite a long name, but here, I go by Jose, and in my country of origin, everyone calls me Jose Luis. As a fun fact, my first last name is Ortuño, not Ortuno. I had to change the ñ when I moved to the USA, in part, because it does not exist in English keyboards, and it is kind of tedious typing the letter’s ASCCI value. Despite that, I was amazed when Sarah, our Director of People Ops, started using my native last name spelling when I joined phData. It was so cool! I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I have two brothers that are also IT guys; in fact, one is also a data expert. I have three sons. The oldest works in Forensics, the second is a System Engineer, and the little one is pursuing Chemistry Engineering. My wife Raquel is a business specialist and 1rs level Karate black belt.
What does Solutions Architect mean? What do you actually do in any given day?
Well…this is a tricky question because, in any organization, job titles usually give you an idea about what the person does. Different from a Data Engineer or Software Developer, the Solutions Architect title might sound a little abstract. I’ll try to give you my humble opinion on the way I see it.
First, a Solutions Architect must have a hefty tool belt. I’m not talking only about technology tools, frameworks, or methodologies. To be a very technical person, substantial experience in different domain areas is critical. A Solutions Architect must possess skills like leadership, management, communication, and critical thinking. They must be able to wear different hats but never lose focus or forget the essence of their role. They also talk about different jargon to effectively communicate with diverse audiences. This is really important because today, we might fix a health organization problem, but tomorrow we might be helping an insurance company or putting machine learning models in production on a farm.
The Solutions Architect role is very complicated. I’m responsible for working closely with stakeholders to design and implement solutions to solve very complex problems. To do so, we must be able to envision a clear roadmap and what tools and resources are best for the project all the way from infrastructure to applications. I’m involved in all stages of the solution implementation. Of course, in IT, nobody can know everything; hence, as a Solutions Architect, I must take advantage of my experience, interpersonal skills, and resource management to blend with different areas (like project management) to guarantee project success. And last but not least, my favorite skill is the ability to coach and mentor. I genuinely believe that a Solutions Architect should always be ready to provide guidance, advice, and share experience in a prescriptive way.
Tell us about the data engineering team. What is it like working with them every day?
The data engineering team is a group of brilliant people. Because they are so intelligent, it’s easy, exciting, and fun to work with them. They know how to be a nice person; when you meet them, you notice they have high standards and a great attitude. They all like challenges, technology, and learning. They are reachable and ready to take a second look at a problem you might have – even during weekends! We don’t work in silos and we’re clear that this is a team. I’ve had experiences with other organizations where they feel like they have to own problem solutions, like by claiming something was their idea or competing with each other for the best solution. I can tell you, this is not the case of the DE team. We really leverage our psychological safety and community values for the common good. And honestly, I think this holds true across all phData teams.
What past experiences have prepared you for your job at phData? You have multiple Master's degrees, right?
Indeed, I have extensive experience! To give you an idea, I started with C, Pascal, and when OOP gained traction, I made a super jump ahead to the Borland’s Turbo-family (Turbo C++, Tubo Pascal, Turbo, etc.). After that, I became a fan of Sun Microsystems. Java and Solaris were my playgrounds for a long time. After many years in software engineering, I realized I needed to work ahead on my career. I had accumulated good technical experience, but eventually, I aspired to take on leadership positions and would have to build those skills, so I decided to pursue my first Master’s degree. I attended Hamline University, where I got a Master in Management with a conflict resolution concentration. That gave me a lot of confidence. I remember a friend asking me why I was pursuing that degree, as such a technical person, and I told him that eventually, I’ll grow grey hair, want to hang up the gloves as a programmer, and want to be prepared for the next step. After that, I worked in a couple of managerial roles. It was painful due to the size of the organization, but I learned a lot.
After a few years in management roles, I came with another idea that “IT diplomas really expire.” I don’t know how long it takes but believe me, they do expire. So, if you want to stay in the market, you need to keep learning every day. That is why I decided to go back to college and get my second Master’s degree in Software Engineering. This time, I wanted to learn the new way and I had a really great experience. In my last semester, I heard about this new fancy term, “Big Data,” and I realized that I could obtain a Big Data graduate certification by taking a few extra courses. So I said to myself, what the heck … let’s do it, and I got my Big Data certification. One semester down the road, the same thing happened again. If I took a few extra classes, I would get my Master’s degree in Data Science. By that time, I was really into data so I did it, and that is how I got my third Master’s degree! With great humbleness, I’m proud to bring a lot of experience to the phData team.
How have you seen the company change since you started? How has your job evolved?
I’ve been impressed by the organization dynamics and how it organically grows without losing focus. But let’s talk about the obvious: COVID-19. It’s impressive how the organization could shift gears, adapt, and continue to deliver customer satisfaction while protecting phData’s culture. Communication from the senior leadership team always has been excellent, but now it is outstanding. Our team’s level of commitment and sense of urgency is enormous, and as a result, phData has become even more robust during these challenging times.
What are the most exciting things you’re working on and how do you see them positively impacting our customers?
What's important to you? How do you bring your personal values to your work life?
My family. I was raised with strong family values. I believe that part of my success is due to that. My core nature is to be a problem solver, a team player, a friend, to excel, and to always contribute. At the end of the day, I see phData as an extension of my family. Just like in my family, my teammates are people I admire and respect.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
I consider myself a very active person, although, I love going one hour early to the cinema with my lovely wife and have a drink while waiting for the movie to start. We love to engage in any…any…any outdoor activity. Try new stuff, be around with people, laugh, help, contribute. That sounds normal but let me be more precise about your question about something unusual we like to do. My family and I enjoy something called competitive Apnea. Don’t get confused with sleep apnea (That Raquel claims I have, but…), this is about voluntarily holding your breath and either go deep in the ocean or do laps in a swimming pool. The style that we practice in the ocean is called freediving. Before a back injury, I was able to go almost 100 feet down in the ocean, 360 feet in a swimming pool. I was training to reach 4 minutes in a style called static Apnea – just holding your breath and staying still in a pool. We also like Spearfishing; we literally go down in the ocean, pick a fish, and bring it back for dinner. Freediving is one of the most enjoyable activities I like to do, as well as mountain biking. Those activities bring joy to my life, mainly because it is something we go out and do as a family. I invite you to try it!